Friday, April 13, 2012

We’re GaGa for Ourselves: Intimacy, Identity and Individuals

Anarchy A to Z:
a guide to understanding our history unfolding for the anesthetized and apathetic

I is for Individuals

   The 21st century angst-driven teenager, locked in her room with the music blaring, lacks the strong cultural foundations that create normalcy and stability. “Just dance,” Lady GaGa proclaims, ”everything will be okay.” But everything is not okay. The future of our species lives in a world that is in its death throes, yet they do not possess the tools to make sense of it. Instead, they ignore them, retreating to their shells or their radical ideologies. We have created a world without the intimacy of healthy social relations, without a language of love. But it isn’t just our young standard bearers, but the standard itself.

   Without intimacy, our people cannot analyze the breadth and depth of our crises. We need a spiritual ecology, a return to holism and simplicity, but instead we socialize our system of hyper-individualism. With our identities under attack, we shy away from intimacy because in it we must sacrifice part of our self. It is no surprise that the military has one of the highest divorce rates; these men and women are indoctrinated to view others and otherness as signs of inhumanity. You can’t pull the trigger in the name of your corporate masters if you see yourself staring back at you. To divide the commonalities of the human condition is to abolish the ability to be intimate. But the methods of doing so are convenient. The individual reigns herself. All others are “others.” 

   The Have-Have Not dichotomy creates a rift, as all dichotomies do, between individuals in our society. It reinforces the individual’s psychology, whether we see ourselves among our black brothers, our vegan clan or our cohort of conspicuous consumers. These group identities confirm biases and make us more comfortable as individuals. The first questions we ask someone at a social event are generally identity based. “What do you do? What kind of car do you drive? Are you married? Kids? What kind of music do you listen to?”
As a humanitarian, as an empath for the people of Palestine and the people of the Ninth Ward in New Orleans, and later as a student of Peacekeeping, I’ve sought to reduce the imperialist program to a manageable size. The science is inexact; it is a lot like chemotherapy. Sometimes you have to try it and hope it works, but surrendering a sense of control and accepting vulnerabililties and imperfections in proposals helps narrow the pharmaceutical response. In exploring the promise of deep peace, and being partly driven to explain the polarization of the American political system and its challenges, I have crafted a hypothesis to explain the failures of the Peacekeeping practitioners and their dinosaur enterprise (we’ll see if it flies with the thesis advisor). 

   In sum, identity is the cornerstone laid on a foundation of geographic determinism. But predatory corporate capitalism, with its M.O. of commodifying of every tiny piece of the planet’s surface, its inhabitants and their spirit, has expanded history’s most destructive economic system to every place worth exploiting. Some called it the end of history because there no longer seemed to be a challenger. These neoliberal neophytes clambered the halls of academia, hidden behind robes of Carnegie Fellows, missing the truth in their statements. The end of history is not the triumphalism of game theory and market dynamics, but the homogenization of the global order.

   Identity is fundamental to the human spirit. With the poetics of pop culture drunkenness as a thorny afterthought, self-realization is necessary transition in the life cycle of human social behavior. I was one of those confused and immediately defensive individuals, and you were too. Now extrapolate that process. Take flight and see yourself floating above earth with wide eyes of holism. See the villages in the Amazon, the refugees squeezed between Shell Oil’s drilling in the west and soy bean farmers encroaching from the eastern plains. Identity is the stability factor discussed earlier. It is a fundamental function of culture, the subject our socialization programs sustain. Yet, in a world that is increasingly connected psycho-spatially, and under brutal assault by an exploitative economic system manifest in the injustices we have identified, humans are radicalized into violent defense of a simple but shared identity.

 “Cogito ergo sum.”
- Rene Descartes
   “I think. Therefore, I am.” The individual is a difficult phenomenon to navigate. It is rooted in basic brain function of self-realization, a pseudo spatial-temporal coping mechanism that underpins our basic philosophical questions. It was articulated in ancient philosophy. It was revived during the Renaissance and Enlightenment. It was exploited to serve the basis of the Westphalian order in the bastardization of human social psychology we call nationalism; here, its destructiveness is obvious. American culture is particularly wedded to the frontier myth of the rugged individual, man versus the wilds of an untamed continent, always a victim but always the victor. It would come as no surprise that American enfranchisement requires at least a subconscious fist bump to images of individual ruggedness.

   The individual was lastly spun, so far as this conversation is concerned, as a culture of poverty. No irony is spared in the relationship between the mythological rider of the white horse--galloping from the gunslinger movies sets of California and into the White House, carrying proudly the individualist narrative perfected in the PR rooms of General Electric—and the process of hyper-individualizing, and thus dividing the American public.

   In the new world order, the individual is responsible for raising their standards, and, therefore, poverty is an individual choice. This narrative is incredibly useful for those piloting the collapse because it absolves them of wrongdoing and saddles the individual with guilt. But the individual is only as capable as the system in which they operate. Our systems of patriarchy, racism, scientific skepticism etc. create the ideal environment for exploitation without repercussion. And we are only beginning to see the ramifications. This American Life posed an interesting question recently: what country do you want to live in? 

   When a crowd jeers a gay serviceman or cheers for death by health insurance market, we know we are in trouble. Our social identities have been and continue to be under assault. They are being destroyed to so those that command the narratives of history can reconstitute all human social relationships as hyper-individualized, neoliberal, Social Darwinian fiefdoms. It creates spectacles to entertain us and to pacify us. It prevents individual human beings from recognizing that their uniqueness contributes to broader patterns of healthy social behavior.

“The control of a large force is the same principle as the control of a few men:
It is merely a question of dividing up their numbers.”
― Sun Tzu

   Hyper-individualism hampers the human need for friendship and intimacy, components of self-actualization and necessary to evolutionary enlightenment. It condemns any spirit of confederated cooperation that may allow us to confront our crises. It foments divisions within the ranks of the dispossessed. Instead of rising as one, we dance in our rooms alone. Hoping that out there, somewhere, is our “biggest fan,” someone to follow us around and be our Paparazzi.

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